The University of Wisconsin Press

African Studies / Anthropology / Women's Studies


Gossip, Markets, and Gender
How Dialogue Constructs Moral Value in
Post-Socialist Kilimanjaro
Tuulikki Pietilä

Women in Africa and the Diaspora
Stanlie James and Aili Mari Tripp, Series Editors

2009 Winner of the Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize
—Women’s Caucus of the African Studies Association

"All traders are thieves, especially women traders," people often assured social anthropologist Tuulikki Pietilä during her field work in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, in the mid-1990s. Equally common were stories about businessmen who had "bought a spirit" for their enrichment. Pietilä places these and similar comments in the context of the liberalization of the Tanzanian economy that began in the 1980s, when many men and women found themselves newly enmeshed in the burgeoning market economy. Even as emerging private markets strengthened the position of enterprising people, economic resources did not automatically lead to heightened social position. Instead, social recognition remained tied to a complex cultural negotiation through stories and gossip in markets, bars, and neighborhoods.

With its rich ethnographic detail, Gossip, Markets, and Gender shows how gossip and the responses to it form an ongoing dialogue through which the moral reputations of trading women and businessmen, and cultural ideas about moral value and gender, are constructed and rethought. By combining a sociolinguistic study of talk, storytelling, and conversation with analysis of gender, the political economy of trading, and the moral economy of personhood, Pietilä reveals a new perspective on the globalization of the market economy and its meaning and impact on the local level.

"A strong, theoretically informed ethnography, Gossip, Markets, and Gender successfully reveals the force of persuasive rhetoric and casual talk in a changing moral economy. At the heart of the matter is a moral dialogue about upward mobility, reputation, and value in the context of post-socialist liberalization and new attitudes toward making money." —Richard Werbner, University of Manchester

Tuulikki Pietilä is lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Helsinki. She is the author of numerous articles and essays on trade and gender issues in postcolonial Africa.

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cover of Pietila's book is dark blue, with a photo of a marketplace in the center. Bunches of bananas are shown.

January 2007

LC: 2006008597 HF
280 pp.   6 x 9
20 b/w photos, 4 maps

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Cloth $45.00 s
ISBN 978-0-299-22090-7
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"Explores important political and economic implications of gossip and markets. It will be very valuable to those interested in African gender and economies."
—Gracia Clark, Indiana University, Bloomington




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